On A Mission To Safeguard the Natural Beauty of Kurdistan

In these difficult times, everyone wants a dose of nature and a breath of fresh air. So we decided to take you on a journey with the adventurous Rawa Barzinji.

Born and raised in Erbil, Rawa Barzinji was inspired after a trip to the Scottish Highlands, and he decided to spend more time hiking in the mountains of Kurdistan and advocating for their preservation.

Bekodyan Pond

What inspired you about this trip to Scotland?

The group of friends I had joined on this trip to the Scottish mountains were environmentalists. The passion they had for saving our planet was demonstrated by the way we camped and the equipment we used.

How did you arrange your first adventure to the mountains of Kurdistan and what kind of difficulties did you face?

My first camping trip in Kurdistan was in 2017, to the Balakayati district. One of our greatest difficulties was that the GPS and maps in this area are not updated, and villages are not clearly marked. There are also many uncleared landmines in the mountains that make it dangerous for hikers. 

How did you find the equipment you needed for your trip?

There are a few shops that sell hiking gear, but they are very expensive and their gear is not the best quality. Some places, like “Langa”, a second hand market,  sell equipment from Europe that is often cheaper and well made, but you can’t always find everything you need.

How would you describe the nature of Kurdistan?

The stunning nature of Kurdistan helps you reconnect with your soul. Its mountains are Kurdistan’s most prominent geographical feature. There is a saying among Kurds: ‘No friends but the mountains,’ for they have not only shaped the history, people, tradition and culture but have also been used as hideouts for Kurdish Peshmerga and guerrillas fighting oppressive regimes.

Bird House

What are “must see” sites in Kurdistan?

Personally, I am in love with Barzan due to its beautiful nature and high mountains. This district protects its environment by enforcing laws against hunting, deforestation, and waste dumping.

I also love the district of Choman in Balakayati, but it is very sad to see that it still has landmines left from the Iran-Iraq war.

I plan on visiting Bakur and Rojhalat soon. I have visited Rojava many times and I like the nature and culture there.

Was there ever a difficult situation up on the mountain that you faced?

One time while hiking with several friends in Balakayati we ended up in a minefield and had to come down really carefully.

Any future plans to arrange professional training and trips for tourists to the Kurdish mountains?

Many people approach me about beautiful locations in Kurdistan, and inquire about the risks. I would like to be involved in that but have limited time due to work and other activities. However, I am always posting Kurdish natural sites on social media and promoting those who are documenting this.

What is your message to the Kurdish government to protect and grow Kurdistan’s natural sites?

We have beautiful natural sites that could help to significantly boost the local economy. We need to have a clear strategy to enact new regulations that would support local businesses and preserve nature. Ecotourism in Kurdistan has recently been flourishing, at least on a domestic scale. However, international tourism and ecotourism development can only happen with the proper policy, management and planning to bring positive economic, social and cultural benefits and environmental protection to the region.

What is the one thing you want visitors to do when visiting these mountains?

Please keep the environment clean. You want to camp in a beautiful place, so does anyone come after you.

I would also like to add that my dream is to visit Kurdistan’s mountains free of fire, and without fear of being bombarded by Turkish drones and warplanes.

All the photos are from Rawa’s instagram Account: rawa_barzinji